Act normal or get out. The Netherlands’ election is this year’s first test for Europe’s populists

Geert Wilders is dragging all of Dutch politics in a nationalist direction

“THERE’S something wrong with our country,” began an open letter to the Dutch people published last month. It went on to moan about those who “abuse our country’s freedom to cause havoc, when they came to our country precisely for that freedom”, and warned them to “act normal or leave”. The author was not Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Muslim Freedom Party (PVV), but Mark Rutte, leader of the free-thinking Liberals (VVD) and prime minister of a country that presents itself as one of the most tolerant in the world. “Act normal” (doe normaal) is a common injunction in Dutch; it can mean “Don’t be obnoxious” or “Don’t be silly.” But here it had a dark, exclusionary ring.


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